We are pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Emily, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Emily lives in South Africa, and submitted the following report about the Eastern Cape. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: English, Xhosa, Afrikaans
Reasons to go to Eastern Cape
This is the province I call home here in South Africa. Growing up in the former Transkei region, we were often excluded from quite a bit of what was happening in the crazy Apartheid days in the rest of South Africa. Life was simple and I have wonderful memories growing up here.
The Transkei is now part of the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, since 1994. However, much of the province is quite unspoilt, rural, and absolutely stunning.
From our highlands, consisting of the Drakensburg Mountains to our beautiful coastal areas, also known as the Wild Coast, the Eastern Cape is known as the Friendly Province, and it truly is. It is the home of many of South Africa's freedom fighters, especially Nelson Mandela. His final resting place is near his hometown of Qunu. Learning some Xhosa words here is a must for visitors.
Visiting our beaches is an absolute fun experience, as the beaches are normally fairly empty, pets are allowed, and the water is warm, as a result of the warm Agulhas current in the Indian Ocean. If you're lucky, you'll see some happy cows splashing around in the waves as well. Sugar cane plantations can usually be found around our beaches, and munching on these sticks of sugar cane is a childhood treat that I still enjoy to this day. The stories behind many of the names around here are always a treat to hear, especially when an elder tells you about them. Ask about the Umzimvubu River in Port St Johns! Credit goes to Iven Scharein for the Hole in the Wall photo, he did justice to the beauty that is part of our Wild Coast! Surfers out there… our beaches have the waves: Plettenburg Bay, Jeffries Bay, St Francis Bay… the list goes on!
Our Drakensburg (Dragon Mountains) Mountains form most of our borders and you'll find South Africa's only ski resort (Tiffindell) outside a cute village called Rhodes. Our very own highlands, many visitors come here to experience 4×4 driving trails, go trout fishing, and just generally enjoy a break away from the hustle-and-bustle of city life.
We have our share of beautiful wildlife too. The Thomas Baines Nature Reserve is one such beautiful place… fortunately, our rhinos and elephants have been fairly protected from poachers.
So much of South Africa's history comes from Eastern Cape – one can see British influence in so many parts of this province. Towns like Grahamstown, Queenstown, East London, and Port Elizabeth are filled with interesting places to visit to learn about South Africa's history. Rumour has it that JRR Tolkien was inspired by the Drakensburg for his Lord of the Rings books. He was born in Bloemfontein (Free State, South Africa)… next door to the Eastern Cape.
The Otter Trail is a famous hiking trail which can also be explored by those who are fit and adventurous. It is near the Garden Route area in the Western Cape. Definitely one of the most beautiful places on the planet. For those most daring, visit Bloukrans Bridge, on the border between the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape… the world's highest bungee jump goes down here.
Food in South Africa is always a treat. While I don't eat meat anymore, I think meat-eaters and vegetarians will both find quite a variety of food to try. You must sample local food from samp (mish-mash of corn), to pap (maize meal).
This is just a sample of things to do and see in this beautiful province! Come visit and experience so much more of our beautiful country!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 2 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)